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Archives for musings

Get Vaccinated Win An iPhone

July 25th, 2021

Throughout June and July the Shanghai local government has been trying a new tactic to convince people to take the coronavirus vaccine: bribes. At many vaccination centres you can be entered into a draw to win a phone or receive some other free gift. It’s clearly working as apparently 70% of adults have now been vaccinated. I’ve collected a few examples below that I either saw myself or were shared around on WeChat.

I passed this one on the way to work. The text says “get the coronavirus vaccination here and receive five litres of cooking oil”.

This district is clearly lacking imagination: the sign says “take the vaccine and receive 300 RMB cash after the second injection”.

A sign at Shanghai International Tourism Resort. It says “take the vaccine inside the resort and receive a free entrance ticket”.

This one says if you take the vaccine here, you’ll be entered into a prize draw. The top prize is an iPhone 12 and the second one is a Macbook, although the seventh prize is just some eggs.

This lady won a phone at another location after getting her vaccination. There’s a maximum of one per day but if you don’t win anything you still get five litres of cooking oil.

I Made a Cup

July 17th, 2021

In the interests of team building or something I made a clay cup at some pottery workshop. The results were surprisingly good and said cup is quite usable for drinking water.

The raw materials shaped with my own hands into something resembling a cup.

The painting process. Note the expert colour mixing going on.

The finished article. Note that it has shrunk quite a lot in the baking process.

Sandwich Recommendation

June 20th, 2021

After several years living abroad with all sorts of strange foreign food, I decided recently that I’d really rather just eat sandwiches for lunch. And finally I’ve found a bakery chain in Shanghai that sells sandwiches worthy of the name (hint: it’s not Family Mart).

The shop in question

It’s called Paris Baguette. But actually they’re not French at all but Korean. Whatever, their sandwiches are excellent, and also the egg tarts.

Exhibit A: three delicious ham rolls

Exhibit B: a delicious tuna sandwich

The Dust Storm Cometh

March 30th, 2021

From the office it doesn’t look so bad…

Say what you like about UK weather, but I’ve never seen “sand, hazardous” before

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Final Fantasy VII

March 8th, 2021

The last few months I’ve been playing through the PC version of Final Fantasy VII. I first played this on the original PlayStation way back around year 9 in secondary school and it was the first time I’d played any kind of Japanese RPG.

Emerald Weapon


One of my friends was obsessed with the game and the lore around it. He had the golden Chocobo, all the materia and summons, and defeated both the Emerald and Ruby Weapon “superbosses”. I think I just played the main story through to the end and didn’t bother much with the optional content.

Press [OK] to slap…


I love the pre-rendered backgrounds, reminiscent of PC point-and-click adventure games of the same era. However they look a bit pixelated when scaled up on a large monitor (apparently they lost the original 3D scenes). The character models look great on a modern system though.

A regular battle


The story is great too and has tons of memorable characters (albeit mostly the antagonists). There’s a lot more depth to the story than I realised as a teenager. Perhaps my understanding at that time was hampered by the dodgy English translation, but it has a certain charm. I also much prefer the “science-plus-magic” setting to the common fantasy one, it’s almost a bit cyberpunk.

Finally got to level 99


What’s not great? Well it’s kinda easy: once you’ve figured out some tricks with the materia system the main story doesn’t have much challenge. I wish there was a configurable difficulty level (I heard the PC version has a mod to do this but haven’t tried). And the occasional mini-games, especially the snowboarding one, are annoying and haven’t aged well.

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YPbPr Mode vs RGB

February 26th, 2021

I was fiddling with my monitor settings today (Dell U2415) and noticed the “Input Color Format” was set to “YPbPr” instead of “RGB”. This is a compressed colour space where the chroma channel has half the resolution of the luminance channel. Normally this would be used for TVs or video encoding rather than a PC monitor. That said I’ve been using it this way for two years without noticing…

The problem is Dell monitors advertise this mode along with RGB in their HDMI EDID. The driver for my AMD graphics card see this and prefers it over RGB with no way to override the selection. There is one creative solution I found which involves patching a local copy of the EDID and telling the driver to load that from disk rather than reading it from the monitor. I took the simpler option of spending a few quid on a DisplayPort cable which only supports RGB.

The result? Fonts look a bit sharper… maybe… but it’s hard to tell.

Mince Pie Scalpers

December 31st, 2020

It’s no secret that I love mince pies. But due to the pandemic I’m stuck in Shanghai this Christmas and the seasonal delicacy is hard to source. Now everyone who’s lived in China knows you can buy anything on Taobao, and sure enough I found a 代购 daigou specialising in British foodstuffs.

Unfortunately the price is around 5-10x what you’d normally pay in the UK. Feeling desperate I bought one box of Waitrose pies anyway, for a total of ¥154 with shipping (about £17). It eventually arrived two days before Christmas and a joyous time was had by all.

A delicous Waitrose regular mince pie

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New Lego Pirates Ahoy

December 27th, 2020

A few years ago I thought I had finally collected all the classic Lego pirates. But no! Lego have just recently release a new set in the traditional style! Obviously I had to get it for Christmas and I wasn’t disappointed…

Thank you Santa

The set has over 2500 pieces and I spent two days building it. I’ve literally never spent that long on a Lego set.

The island form

It’s supposed to be a pirate base made out of an old pirate ship that ran aground.

Pirate captain and pirate pub

You can actually build two models and switch between them without much effort: the three boat parts clip out and can be assembled into a whole pirate ship.

The boat form, resembling the old Lego pirate ship

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Air Pollution

December 12th, 2020

The air quality has been getting worse and worse the last few days. But today it reached new lows of “very unhealthy”. I think the icon is recommending me to wear a gas mask. Perhaps it should be comforting that there’s still as “hazardous” level beyond this.

I think I’m going to stay inside

A Problem at the High Sea

November 12th, 2020

Yesterday my inbox received an urgent plea from Mr Leslie Simpson. My dear friend Leslie has run into a ghastly problem at the high sea.

Please i am contacting you because of the problem we have now at the high sea, now the situation here is getting worse and we’ve done all we could to put the brain box of the ship in order but to no avail, and beside we just received information from the Signal house that there are sea pirates from Indonesia blocking the sea. They are about 312 KM away from us and the nearest place for this Ship to anchor is Labuan Island somewhere in East Malaysia. As it is now, we are no longer safe because we fear the pirate’s attack because the ship is very slow now. We have called for a rescue team but we are yet to get a response from our headquarters.

The captains of the Ship have announced that all passengers should offload their goods for another means of transportation as the SHIP will duck here for other weeks until its safe to continue sailing.

I am intrigued as to what problem has befallen the brain box of the ship. But I am glad Leslie managed to evade the sea pirates and reach Labuan Island safely.

My problem now is my documents and my earn time savings and little part of the money I also took as loan are with me here in the ship, it is which I kept in my cabin safe box. I do not want it stolen from me in the event of any attack. My plan was to use this money USD$23.4 Million United State Dollars to buy Metal oil in drums in Australia and supply to a company in Mexico. I already had a contract agreement with and the documents are for my contract so I have to be careful.

I have discussed with one of the security company here. They will proceed delivery immediately I get a confirmation from you to assist me in receiving this money because there is no bank here and I don’t want to lose the money to sea pirates because I know how I suffered for it.

Now follows several paragraphs about how I can help Leslie by storing the money in my bank account, and the information I need to provide him for this. I hope this security company is as trustworthy as I am.

I am sitting by the seashore now and waiting for your quick reply. Please I need your prayers this time because we are in a state of confusion praying that nothing happens to us.

Sadly I think the state of confusion will persist for a good while longer.

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